On 19 October 2015, the Project for Democratic Union together with the Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung hosted a panel discussion on the role of national sovereignty in a future Europe.
National sovereignty, once the ordering principle of the continent, has devolved considerably in the past five years. In many countries it exists only on paper. In this context we have to ask the question, whether the sovereign nation state is the right form of political organization to face the challenges of the 21st century. How can we reclaim a space for politics to act effectively and efficiently? What are the consequences we have to draw from Europe crisis and how can we overcome it?
To discuss these questions, the PDU invited Rainer Brüderle, former Economy Minister of Germany, Hans Eichel, former Finance Minister of Germany and Markus Ferber, MEP, Vice-Chair of the European Parliament’s Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. The discussion was chaired by Michael Wolffsohn, Professor Emeritus, Universität der Bundeswerhr, München and author of Zum Weltfrieden, Ein politischer Entwurf. The event, hosted at the Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung’s headquarters in Munich, was attended by well over 200 people. Those present witnessed a lively discussion of many issues pertinent to the future status of European nation states, as well as to the project of European integration in general.
In his introductory remarks Michael Wolffsohn pointed out that according to a widely shared definition of the term, nation states have already ceased to exist anymore in Europe. Due to immigration and frequent border shifts in the history of the continent there are no cultural and ethnical entities that coincide with political ones so as to qualify for the term “nation state”. In a similar vein, the Social Democrat Hans Eichel pointed out that the German “Grundgesetz” is silent about the “national sovereignty” of the German state and that this concept, while so entrenched in many peoples’ minds, has no place in the political and legal reality of the country. In addition, all discussants agreed that the member states of the European Union and especially the Eurozone countries have effectively given up much of the sovereignty they may or may not have had before.
Nonetheless, none of the panelists thought that this implies that the road to a federal European state, as envisioned by the PDU, is one that will be taken soon, though voicing their sympathy for steps in that direction (Eichel and Brüderle, for example, both called for the creation of a European army). They all agreed that the European political elite currently lacks “true Europeans” of the kind needed to move towards political union. This was different in the times of Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterand when the European Union and the Eurozone had been created.
Eichel repeatedly referred to this Franco-German “engine” of the European project, without which no progress towards European political integration can be made. What is needed then, is a generation of European politicians, German and French especially, that fights for the future of Europe above and beyond the “solving” of individual crises that bring the continent to its knees. These politicians need the ability to inspire Europeans that a common European future is a goal worth fighting for.
Pictures courtesy of the Hans Seidel Stiftung.